(originally published on November 26, 2011)
Whenever I can, I walk downtown now, instead of using public transportation. It was one of the perks of moving back in 2007. I now live within walking distance of everything. It is a thirty-minute walk to the main square, and I often pick a longer route so that I can rock with my mp3s a little longer. I read someplace that walking in rhythm to the music and not thinking about anything counts as meditation. Since I am too jittery to ohm, I’ll take whatever I can.
When you start approaching the main square, the city center slowly starts getting in your way. People barge out of shops without looking at the sidewalk and bump into you. You have to slow down for cars and unminded children. Walk around a delivery truck because it is blocking your way. Pretend you did not hear the construction workers whistle after you. Wonder why there are so many cafés in the streets even in the low thirties, as you snuggle up in your thrice-wrapped wool scarf.
You do not really care that banks seem to have bought the sky and their billboards and moving screens are now trying to hypnotize you from rooftops. I am the black hole of the advertising industry. In the infinity of advertisements attacking my senses, I don’t really notice any. Commercials are completely lost on me. One day I will write GoogleAds a letter and explain why every single dart they sent my way was completely off. I will watch a commercial on TV and be amused by a detail or the scene or the language if it is innovative, but will then ask, Hey, what was that for?
Still, some try to use the old-fashioned approach: handing out leaflets. They get in your personal space and present you with a colorful piece of paper, and you look into their eyes and see that they are just trying to make an extra dime in this cold, like anyone else. It is not just students, it is people older than myself, who ought to have a better job by now that would keep them somewhere warm and away from these silly street gigs. So you take the leaflet like you care and walk on. I even say Thank you.
And I keep rocking with my mp3s, except my hands have something to do now. Without looking, I walk on to my destination, while my autistic fingers fold an origami boat. I used to be better at origami. I once knew how to make frogs, and kaleidoscope-like patterns, and hippos. Never a crane, though. I guess I might have found them too complicated. But boats I can do in my sleep. When one is done, I will twirl it around my finger for awhile, and fiddle with it for a few more steps. And then I will leave it wherever I happen to find myself. On top of trash cans [instead of throwing them inside], on tables at cafés where I happen to meet a friend, in front of shop windows in the street.
Sometimes the leaflets are amusing. Sometimes I am handed discounts for anti-cellulite treatments that make me want to go back and mess with the person who gave it to me, Really, so you think I need it? The same goes for hair salons. But lately, all the leaflets have been for speedy bank loans, professing to offer a quick fix way to get out of debt. No beauty treatments, no dance classes, no art festivals… Just bank loans.
It will not stop me from making my boats and leaving them where I walk like a trail of breadcrumbs. I dare say that folding the colorful bank loan leaflet into something of an altogether different shape, size, and potential for amusement shows that there is someone who thinks about their place in this world, and at least tries to make someone smile when they see it. I wonder what emotions my boats evoke in people who encounter them after I have left them, because I am never around to see it. A waiter did try to flirt with me over one of my boats once, because I had already brought it with me, ready-made. I guess it made his day. I think of them as pieces of myself that I scatter, perhaps even releases of pent-up thoughts and sadness, as I send them off into the world, one by one.